Home History Spitfire Ace Colin Gray: High Flying Kiwi

Spitfire Ace Colin Gray: High Flying Kiwi

by Enochadmin

When the Germans overran France in June 1940, the one main energy that also stood towards them was Britain—and despite the fact that it was separated from the European continent by the English Channel, its prospects of standing for any appreciable size of time appeared slim to most observers. Germany’s navy was no match for Britain’s, however its air pressure, or Luftwaffe, had been the first instrument of victory over Poland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands and France. Adolf Hitler’s Luftwaffe commander in chief, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, assured him that air energy would suffice to carry the British to their knees as nicely.

Flying Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I X4238, Pilot Officer Colin Falkland Grey of No. 54 Squadron, Royal Air Power, cripples a Messerschmitt Me-109E-4 of ninth Staffel, Jagdgeschwader 26, over Maidstone on August 31, 1940, in “Lowering the Odds”, by Timothy O’Brien.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill was making no idle boast when he mentioned that Hitler knew the significance of attaining a swift victory over England, for the British Isles have been a conduit by which an unlimited reserve of manpower may very well be staged towards the Germans and their Italian allies. Britain’s colonial empire was on the wane, however it had largely been changed by an financial commonwealth of impartial and semi-independent nations that might support the mom nation.

Among the many most distant however loyal of these faraway nations was New Zealand. Many “Kiwis” have been already serving within the Royal Air Power (RAF) when World Warfare II started. Two of them, Colin Grey and Alan Deere, could be among the many best-known heroes of the Battle of Britain—and Grey would go on to turn out to be New Zealand’s highest-scoring ace.

Colin Falkland Grey was considered one of twin boys born in Christchurch, New Zealand, on November 9, 1914. After finishing his training at Christ’s Faculty, he labored for some time as a junior clerk, however he quickly selected a extra thrilling vocation—aviation. He and his brother, Kenneth, utilized for brief service commissions within the RAF in April 1937. Kenneth was accepted, however Colin, who had had a historical past of osteomylitis, was rejected on medical grounds. Undaunted by the setback, he hung out as a farm laborer to develop his muscle tissue and stami­na, then reapplied for RAF service—and was turned down once more. After a 3rd try, willpower overcame bodily limitations, and Grey was accepted in September 1938.

Grey (proper) with Alan C. Deere, a fellow New Zealander and Battle of Britain ace whose life and profession curiously paralleled Grey’s. (Courtesy Norman L. R. Franks)

New Zealand had its personal RAF services, however Ken Grey had opted for service in England, and Colin selected to do the identical. He left in December and started his flight coaching at Hatfield, underneath a contracted civilian pilot, in January 1939. After gradu­ating in April, Grey was commissioned an appearing pilot officer and posted to No. 11 Fighter Coaching Faculty at RAF Shawbury, Shropshire. Flying Hawker Harts, he accomplished the course in July. For the reason that different coach on the college was the twin-engine Airspeed Oxford, Grey knew at that time that he was destined for single-engine fighters.

Colin Grey had but to be posted to an operational unit when Britain declared struggle on Germany on September 3, 1939. In October, he was despatched to 11 Group Fighter Pool at St. Athan, from which he was assigned to No. 54 Squadron on November 20. Primarily based at Hornchurch, No. 54 Squadron was then geared up with the most recent fighter within the RAF—the Supermarine Spitfire Mark I. Among the many squadron mates with whom Grey would see intense motion within the yr to return have been Flight Lt. James Anthony Leathart, a scholar {of electrical} engineering from Liverpool College, consequently often known as “Prof”; Pilot Officer John Lawrence Allen; Flying Officer Basil Hugh “Wonky” Means; and Sergeant John Okay. “Jock” Norwell, all of whom have been additionally Britishers; and fellow Kiwi, Alan Christopher Deere.

In the meantime, Pilot Officer Kenneth N. Grey had turn out to be a pilot in Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mark V bombers in No. 102 Squadron, primarily based at Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire, flying his first wartime mission on September 9, 1939. Throughout a reconnaissance over the Cuxhaven and Heligoland areas on the evening of November 27, lightning struck Ken Grey’s airplane, tearing a big space of material from each wings, jamming a flap within the down place and shorting out the radio. Regardless of the injury, Grey and his co-pilot, Pilot Officer Frank H. Lengthy, additionally a Kiwi, managed to fly 340 miles to a secure touchdown at Bircham Newton, Norfolk. Each Grey and “Tiny” Lengthy subsequently grew to become the primary New Zealanders to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). Ken Grey additionally grew to become the one New Zealander to obtain the Czech Warfare Cross, following a leaflet-dropping raid on Prague in extreme climate on March 9, 1940.

Ken Grey continued to fly bombing missions over Germany and—after the Germans invaded Norway on April 9—over targets within the southern a part of that nation. Then, on the morning of Might 1, whereas ferrying a Whitley from Kinloss, Scotland, to Driffield, his airplane crashed on the northern slopes of Hill of Foundland, close to Aberdeen, Scotland. Ken and 4 others aboard the airplane have been killed, and of the three survivors, two later died of their accidents. “I used to be fully surprised by the information,” Colin wrote in his memoirs. “It appeared such a merciless accident {that a} skillful and skilled pilot, who had efficiently accomplished many lengthy and arduous missions over enemy territory, ought to lose his life in such circumstances….On the time of his demise Ken had been together with his squadron for nineteen months and had been flying on energetic operations for eight months—he will need to have been almost due for a relaxation.”

Quantity 54 Squadron alternated between Hornchurch and Rochford all through the winter of 1939-40, sustaining a relentless alert for German air raids or flying convoy patrols over the North Sea. However the unit didn’t see motion till Might 1940, when the defeated British and French forces started their evacu­ation from Dunkirk. On Might 21, Johnny Allen claimed first blood for 54 within the type of a Junkers Ju-88 off Dunkirk, shortly adopted by a declare on a Heinkel He-111 by Prof Leathart, however neither kill was confirmed.

Two days later the unit obtained a particular task. Squadron Chief Francis L. White, the commander of No. 74 Squadron, had shot down a Henschel Hs-126 that was reconnoitering Dunkirk, however not earlier than the German rear gunner had shot holes in his radiator, the ensuing glycol leak compelling him to land at Calais-Marck, France. The RAF had left France on Might 22, and with German forces quickly closing in round Dunkirk, No. 54 Squadron, which had a two-seat Miles Grasp coach to be used as a squadron hack, was requested to evacuate White. Leathart was to briefly land the Grasp at Calais-Marck airfield, take White aboard and instantly take off for England. Al Deere was chosen to offer low-level escort for Leathart, whereas Johnny Allen would cowl them each from a better altitude.

When the trio reached Calais-Marck, Leathart landed, however he did not see White approaching and took off with out him. Deere was gesturing for him to go down and take a look at once more when he heard Allen saying over the radio, “Twelve Me-109s approaching at 6,000 ft.” The 2 Spitfires then plunged into the oncoming formation of Messerschmitt Me-109Es, and a wild dogfight ensured. Deere hit one Messerschmitt and noticed it make a compelled touchdown within the water close to the seaside, its tail sticking up within the air. He then noticed one on Allen’s tail, obtained in behind it and shot it down in flames. Deere was firing at a 3rd enemy fighter and thought he had broken it when his ammunition ran out. By then, Leathart had landed once more, White had scrambled into the cockpit and the 2 have been safely on their manner again throughout the Channel for England.

Rejoining Allen, Deere requested, “How did you get on, Johnny?”

“One destroyed and two probables,” Allen replied. “Wasn’t it nice enjoyable?”

Leathart was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his half within the rescue of White, whereas Deere and Allen every obtained the DFC for safeguarding them. The combat additionally gave the Luftwaffe’s Me-109E pilots considered one of their first tastes of fight with the Spitfire—and an early indication of the powerful combat they may anticipate every time they met it sooner or later.

Pilots of No. 54 Squadron at Hornchurch in Might 1940. Standing (from left): Colin Grey, Pilot Officer Bob Black and Flight Lt. D. George Gribble; seated (from left): Flight Lt. James A. “Prof” Leathart, Flying Officer Alfred W.A. Bayne and Flight Lt. M.C. Pearson. (Courtesy Norman L. R. Franks)

Colin Grey obtained the prospect to point out his mettle on Might 24, when his six-plane patrol encountered a Staffel (squadron) of Me-109Es over Calais. Allen, Norwell and Flight Lt. Dorian George Gribble every downed an Me-109 over Calais. Deere shot one down northeast of St. Omer, and Grey was credited with two probables. Grey scored his first confirmed victory the next day, after escorting Royal Navy Fairey Swordfish biplanes on a mission to bomb German forces at Gravelines. A pilot’s first victory is often memorable, however Grey had an additional purpose to recollect Might 25, 1940, as a result of it was additionally the primary time he had an in depth brush with demise.

“We have been persevering with patrolling when the acquainted cry of ‘Tally Ho!’ came to visit the RT [radio-telephone],” he mentioned in a 1993 interview. “We sighted a formation of Me-110 twin-engine fighters and climbed to assault, however in doing so have been bounced by a few dozen Me-109s. I managed to get behind one and gave him an excellent burst, which slowed him down—the pilot went overboard [bailed out]. Instantly my plane shook, and a hail of bullets and two cannon shells hit. One of many cannon shells hit the entry hatch behind the cockpit and demolished the air-pressure system, leaving me with out flaps, brakes and weapons.

“The second cannon shell hit the port aileron, jamming it in full up place and inflicting the plane to flick over in a spiral dive. It was this compelled maneuver that in all probability saved me, faster than I might have reacted.

“I managed to free the joystick which was arduous over to the left and regained aileron management. The cannon shell had additionally severed the air velocity indicator line so I had no concept of my velocity.

“Utilizing emergency enhance, I instantly headed for residence. By utilizing the emergency ‘blow-down’ [compressed air] I used to be in a position to decrease the undercarriage for touchdown again at Hornchurch, which on the primary try, quick and with out flaps or brakes, was very bushy. Nonetheless, on the second try I made it OK.”

Grey was lucky sufficient to reside and be taught from his mistake—concentrating too lengthy on the enemy airplane in his sights whereas forgetting to verify his personal tail. Fortunately for him, Norwell and one other pilot attacked the Me-109 that had shot him up, sending it down south of Gravelines. The Me-110 Zerstörer (“destroyer”) long-range escort fighters, which Göring had touted as the important thing to German aerial supremacy, fared poorly towards the Spitfires that day, two falling sufferer to Allen, one to Deere and one other in all probability downed by Leathart.

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After the French had capitulated on June 22, the Germans and British spent almost a month getting ready for the wrestle to return. Most aerial motion throughout that point took the type of anti-shipping assaults within the Channel, or interceptions of intruding reconnaissance planes. Grey, Norwell and a 3rd pilot in all probability downed a Dornier Do-17 5 miles southwest of Deal on July 3, and on July 13 Grey shot down an Me-109E of Jagdgeschwader 51 between Dover and Deal. Then, in mid-July, the Luftwaffe started crossing the Channel in pressure to assault RAF airfields and attempt to seize management of the sky over England itself. The Battle of Britain had begun.

Britain’s aerial defenses have been organized to cowl completely different sections of the island, with Air Marshal Keith Park’s 11 Group, together with No. 54 Squadron, working over the southeastern sector—and subsequently bearing the brunt of the Luftwaffe’s consideration. On July 24, No. 54 Squadron took off from Rochford to have interaction German fighters, whereas six Spitfires from No. 64 Squad­ron attacked two Staffeln of Do-17 bombers. The escort that No. 54 Squadron’s Spits bumped into was comprised of 40 Me-109Es of III Gruppe, Jagdgeschwader 26 (III/JG.26), flying their first mission underneath their newly promoted com­mander, Main Adolf Galland. A protracted, vicious dogfight ensued, throughout which No. 54 Squadron claimed six Messerschmitts, together with one by Grey, one by Deere and one by George Gribble, in addition to eight probables, considered one of which was additionally claimed by Grey. Genuinely, the British had been fooled by the evasive split-S dives and smoking engines of the Me-109Es into overestimating the injury that they had performed. Solely considered one of Galland’s pilots, 2nd Lt. Josef Schauff of JG.26’s eighth Staffel (8/JG.26) was killed within the combat, whereas III Gruppe’s technical officer, 1st Lt. Werner Bartels, was shot up by considered one of No. 64 Squadron’s Spitfires over Margate, compelled to belly-land close to the coast, critically wounded and brought prisoner. One in all No. 54 Squadron’s pilots made a compelled touchdown with minor accidents, one other Spitfire was closely broken, and Johnny Allen, victor over seven enemy planes, crashed and was killed whereas making an attempt to land his riddled fighter.

Galland, who had claimed each of III/JG.26’s victories that day, was not happy together with his group’s efficiency, and he made no secret of it to his pilots that night. That first encounter, he later mentioned, eliminated any doubts from his thoughts about how formidable an opponent the RAF could be. Nonetheless, JG.26 encountered Nos. 54 and 64 squadrons once more on the twenty fifth and shot down three Spitfires, Wonky Means being among the many losses.

Air Marshal Park, who made a coverage of rotating his squadrons to extra northern airfields to relaxation his pilots every time doable, despatched No. 54 Squadron to Scotland for 10 days in early August. No sooner had the squadron returned than it was in motion once more, because the Luftwaffe started a supreme effort to eradicate the RAF each within the air and at its air bases. On August 12, 18 Do-17s of Kampfgeschwader (Bomber Wing) 2 (KG.2) devastated Manston airfield. Though intercepted by Hawker Hurricanes of No. 56 Squadron, the German gunners shot down two of their attackers, and all of the Dorniers returned to their base at Arras, France.

At about the identical time the Hurricanes attacked, No. 54 Squad­ron’s Spitfires arrived, however they have been attacked in flip by Me-109Es of I Gruppe, JG.26, led by Captain Kurt Fischer. Within the ensuing dogfight, Grey formally grew to become an ace when he shot down two Me-109Es between Dover and Cap Gris Nez; his fellow Kiwi, Al Deere, downed an Me-109E and subsequently destroyed an Me-110. Two of No. 54 Squadron’s pilots have been wounded however succeeded in crash-landing their Spitfires, whereas No. 64 Squadron, arriving late on the scene, misplaced one Spitfire, whose wounded pilot bailed out, and a second that made a compelled touchdown. I/JG.26, which claimed 4 Spitfires, misplaced two Me-109s. One pilot, 1st Lt. Friedrich Butterweck of 1/JG.26, was killed. The opposite, 2nd Lt. Hans-Werner Regenauer of two/JG.26, was firing at a Spitfire that was on the tail of his flight chief when his airplane was hit within the cooling system. “I hid in a cloud and headed towards the French coast,” he later reported, however his airplane began to lose altitude after which the engine stopped. “I bailed out at about 200 meters, and after a shower lasting about seven hours, was taken aboard an English ship.”

Fierce air battles now be­got here nearly a each day incidence, and the RAF fighter pilots have been usually compelled to fly a number of missions a day, testing their endurance to the restrict. Grey in all probability downed a Do-17 on August 15, the identical day he was awarded the DFC. His squadron was much less profitable in stopping 26 Junkers Ju-87Bs of II Gruppe, Stukageschwader 1 from attacking Lympne at 12:30 that afternoon, dropping two Spitfires to Galland and one other pilot of III/JG.26 (which erroneously claimed seven Spitfires). “It was a powerful but irritating sight because the dive bombers, in excellent echelon formation, swept towards the airfield and peeled off to assault,” Deere wrote in his autobiography, 9 Lives. “A mere handful of Spitfires altered the image little or no as, nearly misplaced within the maze of 109s, they strove to intervene.” Throughout a later patrol at 4 p.m., Deere chased an Me-109 all the way in which to France, then was beset by two different Me-109s—in all probability flown by Galland and 1st Lt. Joachim Müncheberg of III/JG.26, getting back from their final mission of the day. Deere was chased again over the Channel and shot down in flames. He half-rolled, bailed out and got here down unharmed close to Ashford.

August 15 had seen the height of Luftwaffe exercise over England—a report 2,000 sorties—together with its severest losses. The RAF had claimed 182 German planes shot down, whereas the Germans had really misplaced 76, together with 40 fighters. The Luftwaffe, in flip, claimed 101 victories, whereas the British really misplaced 35 fighters that day.

Grey added two Me-109Es to his rating east of Hornchurch on August 16, additionally damaging a Do-17 and an Me-110. Poor climate curtailed air exercise on the seventeenth, however Göring ordered Basic Albert Kesselring, commander of Luftflotte (Air Fleet) 2, to organize his models for a supreme effort to destroy 11 Group’s airfields on the next day. Among the many targets was Hornchurch, assigned to KG.2’s Do-17s, escorted by 25 Me-109Es of JG.51.

On August 18, Grey, Norwell and two squadron mates teamed as much as down an Me-110 presumably flown by 2nd Lt. Hans-Joachim Kästner of Zerstörergeschwader 26 (ZG.26), who crash-landed close to Newchurch in Kent. Flight Lt. William P. Hopkin and one other pilot shot down one other ZG.26 Me-110 over Manston. Hornchurch was attacked that afternoon, and 9 RAF squadrons have been vectored in to its protection. A number of bombers have been shot down, and Grey broken one Do-17. Hopkin downed a Do-17 and broken an Me-110 within the Clacton space, whereas Grey destroyed one other Me-110 over Clacton and broken two extra over Dover and Folkestone. Norwell broken two Me-110s and Leathart in all probability broken an Me-109 in the identical combat. Gribble downed an Me-109 over Kent and broken two He-111s and an Me-110. The Luftwaffe misplaced a complete of 67 planes on August 18, together with 15 of ZG.26’s Me-110s.

On August 22, No. 54 Squad­ron obtained six substitute pilots, together with two from New Zea­land, Pilot Officers M. Shand and C. Stewart. Each have been desperate to get into the fray, however they quickly discovered simply how unforgiving an setting the Battle of Britain was for neophytes. Stewart was shot down throughout their first operational flight over Dover on August 24, bailing out and ending up in a hospital in Canterbury. Grey shot down one Me-110 and broken two others in that very same motion, whereas Gribble broken an Me-110 and destroyed an Me-109. On the next day, Grey splashed an Me-109E within the Channel, however Shand was shot down by different Messerschmitts, force-landed close to Marston and ended up in a hospital mattress adjoining to Stewart’s at Canterbury.

Grey broken a Do-17 and two Me-109Es on August 26. Two days later, all of No. 54 Squadron’s fighters have been despatched up when 30 Dorniers came to visit to bomb the airfields at Eastchurch and Rochford. Leat­hart downed a Do-17, Grey broken one other and despatched two of their Me-109 escorts limping residence over the Channel in an equally broken state. Gribble downed an Me-109 over Manston and a second over Dover. Deere in all probability obtained one other Me-109 north of Foreland however then was shot down. It was the third time he had needed to bail out for the reason that Battle of Britain started, and he would take to his parachute 4 extra instances earlier than it was over. Squadron Chief Donald O. Finlay, commander of No. 54 Squadron, was additionally shot down by an Me-109 on the twenty eighth, bailing out and parachuting to earth wounded.

Bf 109E-3 W.Nr. 1184 flown by Oblt. Wilhelm Fronhoefer of 9./JG 26 was shot down by P/O C.F. Grey of No. 54 Squadron throughout a bomber escort sortie to Hornchurch on August 31, 1940. Fronhoefer crash-landed at Ulcombe in Kent and was captured unharmed. (IWM CH1544)

Simply after lunch on August 31, Grey was taxiing to take off on his third scramble of the day from Hornchurch when he obtained an pressing radio name from the bottom controller for No. 54 Squadron to take off instantly. “Realizing that one thing was critically amiss, I opened the throttle and obtained the hell out of there,” Grey recalled. “Once I appeared again to see if my part was following, the airfield had disappeared in a cloud of smoke and rubble.”

German bombers had arrived over Hornchurch simply as Grey discovered of their strategy. Deere was simply taking off when a bomb hit tore a wing and the propeller from his Spitfire, which Grey mentioned “hit the airfield inverted, then slid a number of a whole bunch of yards with Al trapped in what remained of the cockpit.”

A second later, Eric Edsall’s Spitfire nosed right into a contemporary bomb crater. Ignoring the bombs nonetheless falling round him, Edsall emerged from the cockpit, ran throughout the airfield to Deere’s airplane and extricated him by the door along side the cockpit. Deere suffered solely a torn scalp, and each his wingmen likewise survived the destruction of their plane within the assault. One other squadron member, Sergeant J. Davis, additionally survived the destruction of his Spitfire by the exploding bombs.

In the meantime, Norwell and Gribble obtained a measure of revenge by sharing within the destruction of one of many bombers’ Me-109 escorts over Hornchurch, whereas Gribble downed two different Me-109s over Manston and Dover, and Grey shot down one other Messerschmitt over Maidstone. Grey’s adversary, 1st Lt. Willy Fronhöfer of 9/JG.26, crash-landed at Ulcombe and was taken prisoner. First Lieutenant Müncheberg of seven/JG.26 claimed a Spitfire within the combat, however he reported the lack of two of his pilots, Tech. Sgt. Martin Klar and Corporal Horst Lieback, who have been taken prisoner.

There was to be no relaxation on September 1, when Grey destroyed an He-111 and an Me-109 east of Biggin Hill. An Me-109 and an Me-110 fell to Grey’s weapons on September 2, and Leathart obtained one other Me-109. Grey shared within the possible destruction of an Me-110 on September 3, in addition to splashing an Me-109 off the French coast, whereas Leathart was credited with in all probability downing a second Me-109. Later that very same day, the exhausted pilots of No. 54 Squadron have been withdrawn north to RAF Catterick for a much-needed relaxation, and Prof Leathart was reassigned to the Deputy Directorate of Air Ways. 

By that point, Grey had flown 60 operational sorties in three weeks and had been credited with 16 enemy planes, in addition to a shared victory.

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Grey was promoted to the rank of flying officer in October, and on December 15 he was posted to No. 43 Squadron as a flight commander, though he was solely with the unit a month earlier than returning to No. 54 Squadron in the identical capability. In June 1941, he was transferred to No. 1 Squad­ron, flying evening intruder missions in Hur­ricane Mk.IIBs, however his solely success was to share with one other pilot within the destruction of a Heinkel He-59 twin-engine floatplane 10 miles off Folkestone on June 16. On August 22, he flew a daytime patrol with No. 41 Squad­ron as a “visitor” pilot in a borrowed Spitfire Mk.VB. The flight obtained right into a dogfight with Me-109Fs off Le Havre, and Grey shot down considered one of them.

Per week after that incident, Grey, who was awarded a bar to his DFC in September, was posted to command No. 403 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Power (RCAF). He was transferred to No. 616 Squadron, RAF, two days later. In February 1942, he was assigned to headquarters (HQ) of 9 Group as squadron chief, ways, serving in that function till September, when he returned to motion with No. 485 Squadron, Royal New Zealand Air Power (RNZAF), to regain operational expertise. He was then put accountable for No. 64 Squadron, the place he was in a position to familiarize himself with a few of the first Spitfire Mk.IXs.

In December, Grey was despatched to Algiers, Algeria, to function the ways officer of 333 Group. When Wing Cmdr. Ronald Berry was promoted to command of 322 Wing on January 22, 1943, Grey was given command of Berry’s outdated unit, No. 81 Squadron. Primarily based at Constantine, Algeria, the squadron had simply turn out to be the primary in North Africa to obtain the brand new Spitfire Mk.IXs, which gave its pilots a definite edge over the most recent mannequin Me-109Gs and Italian Macchi MC.202s.

Resuming his preventing profession in earnest over Tunisia, Grey in all probability obtained an Me-109 over Bizerta on February 22, and he shared one other possible victory over an Me-109 with “Ras” Berry over Mateur on March 2. Grey’s subsequent confirmed victory was an MC.202 of the 368th Squadron, 151st Group, 53rd Wing, over Bizerta on March 23, ensuing within the demise of Sergeant Ugo Dal Pozzo. An Me-109G-6 fell to his weapons east of Beja on March 25, Corporal Erich Föbus of two/JG.53 being killed when his airplane exploded on influence. Grey downed one other Me-109G over Tunis on April 3, which can have been Sergeant Arno Fischer of 1/JG.53, who crash-landed close to Teboura after struggling radiator injury. Grey almost definitely downed an Me-109 between Tunis and Bizerta on April 18. Two days later he shared within the possible destruction of an Me-109G in the identical space—almost definitely 2nd Lt. Rolf Schlegel of 4/JG.53, who was wounded however managed a compelled touchdown—after which shot down one other over Tunis, which might have been both Employees Sgt. Otto Schmitt of 5/JG.53 or Corporal Hans Krüger of 6/JG.53, each of whom have been killed. Grey broken an Me-109 on April 23 and destroyed one other over Beja on the twenty eighth.

Wing Commander Grey (middle) with pilots of No. 152 Squadron after the “Jusi Bloodbath” of July 25, 1943. (Courtesy Norman L. R. Franks)

Following the give up of Axis forces in Tunisia on Might 13, Grey was awarded the DSO. He additionally succeeded Berry accountable for 322 Wing, which moved to Malta to participate within the invasion of Sicily. Grey was flying his Spitfire Mk.IX, marked together with his initials, “CG,” on June 14 when he downed an Me-109G over Comiso, Sicily, his sufferer in all probability being Corporal Reinhold Zim­mermann of 6/JG.53, who was wounded however managed to land his broken airplane. Grey destroyed an MC.202 between Comiso and Biscari on June 17, and in the course of the invasion of Sicily on July 10, he despatched an Me-109G-6—presumably from 8/JG.53—crashing on the British beachhead.

Flying a Spitfire Mk.VC on July 25, Grey led his wing in an assault on an aerial convoy of Junkers Ju-52/3ms bringing contemporary troops to Sicily from the Italian mainland. The transports have been escorted by Me-109Gs of JG.27 and JG.77, however the German fighters have been overwhelmed. In whole, the “Jusi Bloodbath” resulted within the destruction of 26 Axis planes, No. 152 Squadron claiming 10 Ju-52s and two Me-109s, No. 242 Squadron claiming seven Ju-52s and one Me-109, and No. 81 Squadron accounting for 4 Ju-52s, an Me-109 and an Italian MC.202. The fighter credited to No. 81 Squadron’s new commander, Sqd. Ldr. William M. “Babe” Whitamore, DFC, was in all probability flown by 1st Lt. Heinz-Edgar Berres, commander of I/JG.77 and a 53-victory Experte, who was killed over Cap Milazzo. Grey himself accounted for 2 of the Ju-52/3ms, which introduced his whole as much as 27 and two shared destroyed, making him the main New Zealand ace of the struggle. As well as, he had a minimum of 11 probables and 12 broken. A second bar to his DFC was gazetted in November 1943.

Members of No. 610 Squadron pose earlier than a Spitfire Mk.XIV at Lympne on October 8, 1944, together with Flight Lt. F.A.O. “Tony” Gaze (seated second from left), Wing Commander Grey (fifth) and Sqd. Ldr. Richard A. Newbery (sixth, with canine). (Courtesy Norman L. R. Franks)

Whereas Grey was preventing over Sicily, his outdated Kiwi squadron mate, Alan Deere, was nonetheless working over the Channel entrance, rising to command of the Biggin Hill Wing in spring 1943. By the point sickness compelled him to relinquish his command in mid-September 1943, Deere had been credited with 17 German plane destroyed plus one shared victory, three unconfirmed, 4 probables and eight broken. Deere continued to serve within the RAF till 1967, retiring with the rank of air commodore.

Coincidental with Deere’s departure from Biggin Hill, Grey accomplished his second fight tour in September 1943. He served for a month with HQ, Center East, in Cairo, Egypt, then returned to Britain to command 61 Operational Conversion Unit at Rednal on December 4. Grey was hooked up to a unit at Tangmere for per week’s operational flying in mid-January 1944, after which, on June 8, took command of the Spitfire wing on the Fighter Leaders’ Faculty at Milfield. He was additionally hooked up to 145 Airfield for operational expertise in July.

Grey returned to an operational function as wing chief flying at RAF Detling (Nos. 118, 124 and 504 squadrons, geared up with Spitfire Mk.IXs) on July 27, adopted by the identical obligation at Lympne in August. Lympne’s Nos. 41, 130, 350 and 610 squadrons have been geared up with the Spitfire Mk.XIVs, powered by the Rolls-Royce Griffon engine. Grey led each wings in protection of Britain towards V-1 flying bombs, in operations over France and Germany, and over Arnhem in the course of the ill-fated Operation Market Backyard in September 1944.

Grey’s Spitfire Mk.XIV in October 1944, when he led the Lympne Wing. At the moment, he indulged within the wing commander’s privilege of marking his airplane together with his initials. (Courtesy Norman L. R. Franks)

After attending a senior commander’s course at Cranwell in January 1945, Grey’s subsequent command was the air base at Skeabrae within the Orkney Islands, in February. He was granted a everlasting fee in April, and in July he went residence to New Zealand on go away and on mortgage to the RNZAF. Whereas en route residence, he discovered of Japan’s give up on August 14, 1945. One in all his first peacetime acts was to marry Betty Prepare dinner at Gisborne on October 20. They’d have two sons and two daughters.

Grey returned to Britain in March 1946 and was posted to the Air Ministry’s Directorate of Accident Prevention. On December 2, Sqd. Ldr. Grey was despatched to the RAF Employees Faculty at Bracknell, adopted by a posting to the Air Ministry Directorate of Overseas Liaison in June 1947. He grew to become a wing commander once more in July 1947, and in January 1950 he joined the British Joint Providers Mission in Washington, D.C.

September 1952 noticed Grey posted as wing commander for administration at Stradishall, which had a unit dedicated to changing RAF pilots to flying the jet-powered Gloster Meteor. In March 1954, he took command of Church Fenton as group captain, commanding Meteor squadrons Nos. 19, 72 and 609. In March 1956, he was despatched to HQ, Far East Air Power, at Singapore, to function group captain of Operations throughout Operation Firedog towards Chinese language Communist guerrillas in Malaya. Grey returned to an Air Ministry job in February 1959, serving within the division of the assistant chief of air workers, Air Protection, as deputy director of Fighter Operations. He lastly retired from the RAF on April 13, 1961, returning to New Zealand and dealing for the Unilever agency till 1979, when he retired as personnel director.

In 1984, Grey and his spouse Betty moved to Waikanae, New Zealand, and in 1990, he revealed his autobiography, Spitfire Patrol. When Colin Grey died on August 2, 1995—adopted in late September by the demise of his outdated squadron mate and fellow ace Alan Deere—each New Zealand and Britain mourned the lack of not one however two of their biggest heroes of World Warfare II.

Jon Guttman is Aviation Historical past’s analysis director. For added studying attempt: Colin F. Grey’s autobiography, Spitfire Patrol; and 9 Lives, by his squadron mate Alan C. Deere.

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